Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Tomato Named George and What Befell Him

The whole kitchen smelled like tomatoes. Real tomatoes. And not just red ones. In a bowl next to a pot of boiling water on the stove were yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes, purple (yes, purple) tomatoes, big ones, little ones, medium ones. Rosie grabbed them with the tongs and dropped them into the water, one by one. Then she put the lid on.

Five minutes. Then off came the lid, out came the steaming tomatoes, and Rosie dropped them into a bowl of ice cold water sitting in the sink. Immediately the hot skins started curling away from the flesh of the tomato. With the help of Rosie's friend, Tru, I peeled off the skins piece by piece. Soon I held a completely naked tomato in my hand. It dripped with water, slimy against my fingers. And not all the tomatoes Tru and I peeled stayed together, so sometimes we ended up with shapeless globs of tomato flesh plopped onto the tray next to the sink. Most of them did stay together, however, and lay exposed on the tray waiting to be crushed and poured into various bags for freezing.

Pippin, who was in charge of retrieving and emptying the tray so we could fill it up again, also brought over the unboiled, unpeeled tomatoes and set them in the bowl for Rosie.

"That one's George," She said, pointing to a particularly round, red-orange tomato. "Be nice to him."

Taking the tray away, she left us blinking at each other in confusion. We all peered at poor George the unlucky tomato, but figured that, being a tomato, it was his chief end to either rot in the field or end up in a pot. Ending up in a pot seemed a far nicer fate, all things considered. So in he went.

George did squeal a little more than the other tomatoes in the hot water. And his skin was a little bit harder to get off. He had to go into the boiling pot twice before he finally relented let us peel him. Then he sat in the corner with his unnamed brothers to await his fate.

We all accepted calling the silly thing George. He seemed to have earned a name, sitting there in sulky defiance of his ultimate fate. The rest seemed more or less accepting of their destiny. (Whether more, or less, is hard to tell. Being deprived of their skins would presumably make it difficult to manage any sort of significant expression to indicate their thoughts on the matter.)

Regardless, however, he still ended up in a ziploc bag in the freezer just like all the other tomatoes. All together the messy, repetitive assembly line of tomato processing took us five girls (and Mom) two hours to complete the whole bushel. Now we have a freezer full of fresh frozen tomatoes we can add to chili, spaghetti, lasagna, and whatever else suits our fancy. Our food tasted wondrously better because of it. You see, farm grown tomatoes have much richer flavors than canned tomatoes from the store. It's very distinct, and although a touch unusual at first, it quickly becomes acceptable. And for us, far more desirable.

I think in the end George was okay with that.

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